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Here’s one more add-on to this week’s column.
On February 4, part of an exterior wall at 1365 Florida Avenue collapsed, due to irresponsible digging at a building site next door.Starting the previous February, Collin Harris, whose girlfriend owns the house, began contacting ANC commissioners, staff-members in multiple government offices and agencies—-Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the mayor’s office, the Office of the Attorney General, and Councilmember Tommy Wells‘s office—-and others about the shady construction practices next door to his home.
Among them was Robert DeBerardinis Jr., an Assistant Attorney General, who wrote Mr. Harris in July 2008 that “I can assure you that OAG will remain actively involved in this case until this matter is cured.”
And then, you know, roughly seven months later, the guy’s house is condemned.
I contacted several government offices, asking why they weren’t able to do more to prevent this collapse. DeBerardinis and I spoke on Tuesday morning, and here was his response:
“We get a lot of calls from citizens, and we try to take a look [at their complaints], ” he said. “But we are not the regulators over here.” If there was a stop work order and the work continued, then his office could be involved—-but it cannot represent private citizens. For example, “OAG could not be involved in a lawsuit for the person who’s agrieved [by] a bulldozer. Our role is hard to define sometimes,” he said. But here is what it is essentially: “We work with scofflaws. If you’re in compliance with the law we move on.”
And when the builder got his permits approved, he was in compliance with the law to continue building. So even though Harris sensed the contractors would act irresponsably, and they had a history of acting irresponsably, and there had been multiple stop-work-orders issued at this site, the builder could legally build.